Wednesday, June 13 began with hot coffee at McDonald’s in Kyoto, because that was the only place I could quickly find hot coffee in our new ‘hood (we also had fried meat on a stick from a nearby street vendor). By 9:45, we were at the “Golden Pavilion” — Kinkau-ji Temple. Covered in gold leaf on 2 floors, it was built by a Shogun as a retirement villa, but willed to become a Zen temple after his death in 1408. It was absolutely beautiful.
Not pictured: the thousands of tourists gawking at it all around us.
Before we ventured onward, I lit a candle for “do a brisk business” and offered its prayer to Buddha or God, and I’m still waiting on the onslaught of brisk business that is surely coming my way.
After my candle ceremony, a bunch of Japanese kids with workbooks approached us and asked if they could interview me to practice their English for their school. I told them not only could they interview me, but interview my children as well! So they did. Afterward, they gave us little fans they’d colored, and we gave them some of our jam from Georgia, and any ill will left over from WWII went away immediately between the U.S. and Japan, because my kids helped Japanese kids with their homework, and there was peace on Earth and goodwill to all men.
We walked the Philosopher’s Path along a canal and had deep thoughts and profound conversations before visiting the “Silver Pavilion” at Ginkaku-ji Temple, which isn’t really silver, but we liked it. We actually liked its grounds better than the golden pavilion’s, and it wasn’t nearly as crowded.
There was also a zen garden by the silver pavilion, and it was JUST like the ones I’ve seen in lawyers’ offices who went to liberal arts colleges before getting their J.D.s, only this one was much bigger and felt more authentic.
It was now afternoon, and we walked through Okazaki Park by the Heian Jingu Shrine and then to a little upstairs shop where we’d reserved a couple hours in kimonos or yukatas, which we put on and wore to the Kodai-Ji Temple and to get ice cream before a tea ceremony at Camellia Tea.
I loved learning the history of Matcha tea and how a proper Japanese tea ceremony is conducted. The tea and the experience surrounding it were wonderful, and since we still had extra time in our yukata rentals, we walked around the city for a bit and enjoyed some old school Kyoto cosplay.
We changed into our normal clothes and ventured to Mount Inari to the most popularly photographed place in Japan. It was 6pm, but my son and I were determined to hike through the more than 1,000,000 torii gates at Fushimi Inari-taisha to the summit and see the sunset.
Along the way are lots of smaller shrines and foxes, which were the messengers for the god of rice, Inari.
We made it up and back down in under 2 hours and were able to catch the sunset from atop the mountain. I was very glad to see vending machines along the way (though the drinks got progressively more expensive as we climbed), as we bought many waters once we got near the top (despite the elevated prices).
Despite the exertion, I loved it. I’ve hiked across England and in 27 U.S. national parks, plus countless state parks and trails throughout the United States, but this was my favorite hike anywhere. I loved how unique it was, how beautiful, and how peaceful (as the higher we went, the fewer people we encountered!).
It was now dinner time, so we took the train to Kyoto station, escalated to one of the higher floors and had tonkatsu at Katsukura. It was delicious.
By the time we got back to our AirBnB, my Apple watch indicated we’d taken over 24,000 steps that day and climbed 70 stories. It was an exhausting, action-packed, and utterly delightful day. I loved it.